One of the most common reasons our Juneau, AK and Bothell, Monroe, Mill Creek and Everett braces and Invisalign patients visit us is for spacing. Spacing, sometimes referred to as “gap teeth” in layman’s terms and diastema in doctor speak, is when there are spaces or gaps between two or more teeth.
When it comes to how to fix gaps in the teeth, the first step is to have your smile evaluated by an orthodontist like Dr. Richard Chan. When you visit us for a braces or Invisalign consultation, Dr. Chan will perform an exam and take necessary diagnostic records in order to develop an accurate diagnosis and determine the underlying cause of your orthodontic concerns. He will then create a personalized treatment plan to close the gaps between the teeth for a beautiful, healthy smile and a functional bite.
To give you a better idea of what gap teeth are and what your treatment options may be, in this post, we’ll cover:
- What is diastema (spacing)?
- What causes gaps in the teeth?
- Can braces fix gaps between the teeth?
- Can Invisalign fix gaps in the teeth?
What is Diastema?
Before we dive into how to fix gaps in the teeth, let’s cover what diastema is. Diastema is the technical term for a gap between two or more teeth. Diastema can crop up anywhere in the mouth, though what’s known as midline diastema, or a gap between the upper front teeth, is most common. In rare cases, patients can even have spaces between nearly all of their teeth.
Spaced out teeth, or gaps between the teeth, can be mild, moderate or severe. Though a lot of patients seek out braces or Invisalign for gap teeth because they don’t like how spacing looks, the orthodontic problem can also lead to other oral health concerns if not treated.
If you don’t close gaps between the teeth, food is more likely to get stuck in the spaces and plaque can accumulate, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Some teeth may bear the brunt of chewing forces causing uneven or excessive wear of the enamel. Additionally, when teeth are extremely spaced out, the alveolar bone isn’t being stimulated where the gaps are, which can result in bone loss and, eventually, tooth loss.
What Causes Gap Teeth?
There are a number of different causes of gaps in the teeth, including:
By far the most common cause of gaps between the teeth is genetics. In these cases, the teeth are too small for the jaw, either due to tooth size or jaw size, both of which are largely determined by your genes. Since the teeth can’t fill out the entire arch, you may be left with a gap in the front teeth, several teeth or all of the teeth. Spaced out teeth that are passed down through the generations, unfortunately, can’t be prevented.
Oral habits, like prolonged or aggressive thumb sucking or pacifier use, can put pressure against the back of the top front teeth, pushing them apart and creating or worsening a gap. Tongue thrust, also known as reverse swallowing, is another culprit behind spaced out front teeth.
Gingival hyperplasia, or gum enlargement, is when there is an overgrowth of gum tissue. The gum tissue can grow between the teeth causing a space. Whether due to inflammation from gum disease, certain medications or medical conditions, spacing caused by gum enlargement tends to get worse if not addressed.
Another cause of a gap between the front teeth is an enlarged labial frenum. When this piece of tissue, which connects your upper lip to the gum tissue above the front teeth, is oversized, it often pushes the front teeth apart.
Gum disease is an infection in the tissues that support the teeth. In its early stages, gum disease is known as gingivitis. At this point, with proper care, gum disease can be reversed. However, if not treated, gingivitis can advance into periodontitis, the more severe form of gum disease. Periodontitis damages the bone and tissue, which may cause teeth to become loose and gaps to develop as teeth migrate.
Obviously, a missing tooth, or teeth, can lead to a gap. If a permanent tooth falls out or has to be extracted, spacing will occur. In some cases, individuals can have congenitally missing teeth, which will require treatment, or impacted teeth, which is when the teeth are stuck under the bone or tissue and unable to erupt fully or at all.
A Note on Gaps Between Baby Teeth
Spacing is normal, particularly a gap in the front teeth, in young children who still have all or most of their primary teeth. The permanent teeth are larger than the baby teeth and will need more room when they come in, which is why there might be spaces between the teeth. This is nothing to worry about and as the permanent teeth erupt, the gaps will close.
That said, it’s recommended that children visit an orthodontist for the first time by age 7. At this initial visit, Dr. Chan can let you know if your child’s growth and development are on track, including whether gaps between the teeth will close on their own. He always treats kids conservatively, so, for most patients, this will just kick off an observational period. They’ll come in for occasional visits over the years and he’ll let you know when the time is right to start treatment.
Can Braces Fix Gaps Between the Teeth?
Yes, braces can fix gaps between the teeth. In fact, both metal braces and clear ceramic braces are excellent options for treating spacing. When getting braces to close a gap, or gaps, you’ll come in for a consultation and Dr. Chan will create a personalized treatment plan for you.
If you have other problems in conjunction with spacing, such as an excessive overbite (deep bite), we may pair your braces with auxiliaries like rubber bands or temporary anchorage devices (TADs). Braces rubber bands provide the necessary connective forces to fix bite discrepancies and ensure that once we close the gap with braces, your top and bottom teeth come together properly, too.
TADs serve as a fixed anchor point to push or pull a tooth, or teeth, in a certain direction and to accomplish asymmetrical tooth movements – i.e., moving teeth in the same arch in different directions.
How long do braces take to close gaps between the teeth? It will depend on the severity of your spacing and whether or not you also have another bite issue. For a straightforward case of minor spacing, you may only need to wear braces for about a year. For teeth that are spaced out in conjunction with another bite concern, like an overbite, braces treatment could last closer to two years.
Can Invisalign Fix Gaps Between the Teeth?
Wondering how to close a gap without braces? Invisalign can fix gaps between the teeth, too! As an experienced Alaska, Bothell, Monroe, Mill Creek and Everett Invisalign provider, Dr. Chan has the knowledge and expertise to effectively use Invisalign for gap teeth and create ideal spacing.
When using Invisalign Teen or Invisalign for gaps between the teeth, a Richard Chan Orthodontics’ team member will take digital scans of your teeth and gums and a 3D model of your mouth will be created. Dr. Chan will determine how to close gaps between the teeth by moving each individual tooth into its ideal position directly on the computerized model. Invisalign will print out custom clear aligners based on Dr. Chan’s treatment plan.
Similar to getting braces for spaced out teeth, when you wear Invisalign for gap teeth, we may pair your aligners with Invisalign attachments and/or rubber bands. Invisalign attachments are tooth-colored buttons that are bonded to your teeth that give your aligners more leverage to achieve complex tooth movements. Invisalign rubber bands, just like braces rubber bands, help to bring the upper and lower arch together correctly.
How long does Invisalign take to close a gap? Again, the length of your Invisalign treatment will depend on how severe your spacing, or diastema, is and whether or not you also have a problem with your bite. For some people, Invisalign will take less than a year and for other patients, it will take closer to 18-24 months.
Additional Considerations for Treating Spacing
Depending on the reason for your spacing, you may require additional treatments to fix the issue. If you have a gap in the front teeth caused by an overly long or wide labial frenum, Dr. Chan might have to perform a laser frenectomy to eliminate the excess tissue between the teeth prior to using braces or Invisalign to close the gap.
If gaps between the teeth are from missing teeth, sometimes braces or Invisalign will be recommended before your dental implant surgery. Since the teeth have a tendency to shift and fill in the gap left behind by a missing tooth, orthodontic treatment will make room for the implant and permanent replacement tooth.
Affordable Braces and Invisalign for Gaps Between the Teeth
Regardless of whether you have a big gap between the teeth along with another bite issue, or you have minor spacing, we work to make our Invisalign and braces affordable for all of our patients. We’re an in-network provider with most insurance plans, which can greatly reduce your out-of-pocket cost for orthodontic treatment.
We also offer flexible, in-house, interest-free financing for Invisalign and braces. This will allow you to pay for treatment over time in low monthly installments. In fact, as part of our efforts to provide the most affordable braces, we’re offering braces for as low as $129 per month for a limited time. Mention the offer when you schedule your consultation to take advantage of these savings.
Schedule a Complimentary Consultation to Get Started!
If you’re ready to find out how we can use braces or Invisalign for gaps between the teeth to give you a stunning, healthy smile, book your complimentary consultation at Richard Chan Orthodontics today!